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Three simple ways to foster innovation at work

A creative culture, collaboration and simple tools are the main drivers for innovation in the UK's fastest growing businesses according to new research.

A poll by software provider Exact of members of The Supper Club, founders and CEOs of high-growth UK businesses, has found that the key ingredients for driving innovation in the workplace include being open to ideas and using old-school tools like whiteboards.

The study reveals that business culture is fundamental to getting creative juices flowing at work, with 60% saying the best way to achieve this is by ensuring leadership teams stop meddling and encourage greater autonomy among staff.

Other key factors cited by business leaders include continuous training and development (53%), and having a flat hierarchical structure to encourage more open lines of communication (40%).

Technology also plays its part; half of those polled say having the right technology improves efficiency, promotes better collaboration and makes it easier and more cost effective to test ideas.

But the technology and tools needed are very simple, the research shows. The top three are reliable broadband (65%), whiteboards for brainstorming (46%) and widespread high-speed mobile internet access (40%).

Only 7% of those polled said things like beanbags, ping-pong tables and funky offices had any impact.

The biggest killer of innovation according to the entrepreneurs surveyed is a lack of encouragement from leadership teams; 59% say those at the top need to adopt more of a "no idea is a bad idea" attitude to avoid that. Lack of time is another negative factor, with 57% saying they are too busy working on other tasks to focus on innovation.

Erik van der Meijden, CEO of Exact said: 

"It isn't necessarily the Google-style offices and latest technology that makes people tick after all … we shouldn't neglect the importance of old fashioned brainstorming on whiteboards and supporting staff by getting off their backs."

Jane Gomez, Managing Director at The Supper Club, said: 

"What our members tell us is that the secret to doing so is really quite simple: don't underestimate the importance of trusting your staff and allowing them the space to create their own success."

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